Technology as Human Social Tradition

Technology as Human Social Tradition: Cultural Transmission among Hunter-Gatherers

Peter Jordan
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Pages: 424
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt7zw1b0
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  • Book Info
    Technology as Human Social Tradition
    Book Description:

    Technology as Human Social Traditionoutlines a novel approach to studying variability and cumulative change in human technology-prominent research themes in both archaeology and anthropology. Peter Jordan argues that human material culture is best understood as an expression of social tradition. In this approach, each artifact stands as an output of a distinctive operational sequence with specific choices made at each stage in its production. Jordan also explores different material culture traditions that are propagated through social learning, factors that promote coherent lineages of tradition to form, and the extent to which these cultural lineages exhibit congruence with one another and with language history.Drawing on the application of cultural transmission theory to empirical research, Jordan develops a descent-with-modification perspective on the technology of Northern Hemisphere hunter-gatherers. Case studies from indigenous societies in Northwest Siberia, the Pacific Northwest Coast, and Northern California provide cross-cultural insights related to the evolution of material culture traditions at different social and spatial scales. This book promises new ways of exploring some of the primary factors that generate human cultural diversity in the deep past and through to the present.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95833-3
    Subjects: Anthropology, Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-x)
  5. Note on Archiving of Data Sets
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-63)

    One definitive feature of the human condition is reliance on highly sophisticatedtechnologicalsolutions. These physical objects are termedmaterial cultureand include elaborate tools for capturing, processing, and storing resources, technologies for travel, vernacular architecture, as well as all the other objects used by people in all spheres of social life. In general, however, people tend not to invent such objects and technologies for themselves through personal trial-and-error learning but predominantly acquire existing designs and cultural ideas from other people. Nor is this a relatively new phenomenon, linked only to the rise of modern urban and industrial life. Even...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Methodology
    (pp. 64-109)

    This chapter aims to build a bridge between the theoretical perspectives on human technological traditions outlined in the previous chapter and the application of these ideas and approaches to empirical research. In short, this chapter provides a methodological framework for assembling appropriate information, and then analyzing these data sets in ways that address the book’s three main themes of propagation, coherence, and historical congruence in material culture traditions. Given that the book also aims to produce a series of higher-level and comparative cross-cultural insights into the general processes generating variability and change in material culture, this methodology has also been...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Northwest Siberia
    (pp. 110-217)

    This chapter focuses on processes of microscale evolution in material culture traditions in Northwest Siberia. It primarily aims to examine how technological traditions are propagatedwithinpopulations, exploring how individuals acquire knowledge of cultural traits through social learning, which persons they copy during their different life phases, and what factors promote them to then reproduce, adjust, or reject the traits they have acquired. It also explores how all these factors work together to generate continuity and change in material culture traditions, and then examines the extent to which more coherent cultural traditions are likely to form and the likely social...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Pacific Northwest Coast
    (pp. 218-276)

    This chapter examines the extent of cultural coherence and deeper historical congruence in the material culture traditions of Coast Salish communities on the Pacific Northwest Coast. Macroscale cultural evolution is examined in three different traditions: housing, canoe making, and basketry/matting. The chapter opens with a general introduction to local environments, subsistence practices, and social institutions, and then examines the evolutionary dynamics of each of the three different traditions in turn (note 1).

    Each tradition appears to be embedded differently in local social networks, and this affects the ways in which the cultural traits are propagated. Housing and canoe making appear...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Northern California
    (pp. 277-340)

    This chapter builds on the preceding case study and also examines general coherence and deeper historical congruence in material culture traditions, but aims develop a series of more comparative insights into the ways in which social institutions serve to structure local propagation of cultural traits in areas of higher linguistic diversity.

    Macroscale cultural evolution is examined in three different material culture traditions that are practised by large numbers of different ethnolinguistic communities: basketry, housing, and ceremonial dress. However, the evolution of each of these traditions is examined in two contrasting parts of California, the Northwest and the interior Northeast, each...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Conclusions
    (pp. 341-374)

    This book has outlined a new approach to studying the origins of variability and change in material culture, which is one of the primary research questions in archaeology and also anthropology. In fact, the overwhelming reliance on technology and material culture in all spheres of activity—ranging from subsistence, travel, shelter and general community life—remains one of the central feature of all human existence. The key argument presented in this book is that these diverse forms of material culture are best understood as expressions ofsocial tradition. Production of each object, artifact, or built structure is the result of...

  12. Appendix: Mantel Matrix Correlations
    (pp. 375-382)
  13. References
    (pp. 383-402)
  14. Index
    (pp. 403-412)